She gathered family photographs from her wedding in Nigeria for example and searched on the Internet for images by her favorite Malian photographer, Malick Sidibe. She then scanned the fragments and Xerox-transferred them onto large pages, cut the figures out and moved them about like jigsaw pieces. She works on canvas but most of her work is on paper for various reasons ; the foremost being that the soft highly absorbent quality of certain printmaking papers for transfers and also for the delicacy to it. She feels most invested in a piece when she works from people she knows and cares about. The personal narrative part of the work is one of the many layers that make up her studio practice.
In her work disparate elements clash together to give rise to a distinctive yet cohesive whole. She refers to an interstitial space of negotiation. This in-between/liminal space is referenced a lot in post-colonial ; Akunyili refers her work to Professor Homi Bhabha’s theory of hybridity and the ‘third space,’ in which cultures come together to create a new hybrid social space, a transcultural space of constant engagement and appropriation.
Her art addresses her internal tension between her deep love for Nigeria, her country of birth, and her strong appreciation for Western culture, which has profoundly influenced both her life and her art. She uses her art as a way to negotiate her seemingly contradictory loyalties to both her cherished Nigerian culture that is currently eroding and to her white American husband. Most of the Nigerian traditions she experienced growing up are quickly disappearing due to the permeation of Western culture. Her art serves as a vehicle through which she takes us in an exploration of her conflicted allegiance to two separate cultures.
Its presence is autobiographical, in Njideka’s big collage paintings two figures, a black woman and a white man, recur: portraits of the artist and her American husband. Both figures seem to bleed into a background pattern of images cut from personnal pictures and clips from African magazines, as if to suggest that in Njideka’s world, old divisions between traditional and contemporary, Western and African, are false or at least permeable.
Her work is influenced by painters like Piero, Velasquez, Manet, or Degas and more recently Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu or Malick Sidibé. Litterature coming out of Nigeria and the African diaspora also play a part in the development of her work.